Stage six of the Tour de France 2019 provided the first opportunity to see the form of the GC contenders as the peloton tackled La Planche des Belles Filles, with defending champion Geraint Thomas (Ineos) answering his critics with a strong ride.
However, an often forgotten group of riders on mountain stages is the sprinters, with television cameras rushing off to interview the victors as these heavier riders empty their tanks in order to reach the finish line within the time limit.
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One sprinter who has become accustomed to toiling up the mountains of the Tour de France is André Greipel (Arkéa-Samsic), the German currently riding his seventh French Grand Tour and never finishing inside the top 100 in the overall classification.
After getting to the top of yet another summit finish on stage six, the German decided to have a bit of fun after a gruelling 7km of climbing with an average gradient of 8.7 per cent, clambering off his bike and jogging across the finish line cyclocross style.
This acceleration on foot helped the German pip Tom Scully (EF Education First) to the line as the pair battled it out for 140th place on the stage, finishing over 20 minutes behind stage winner Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida).
Greipel is riding his first Tour for new team Arkéa-Samsic, although he has not yet been able to contest a bunch sprint, his highest-placed finish being on stage four when he came 12th as Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) took his first ever Tour stage victory.
In April Greipel said his “instincts as a sprinter have gone” after failing to get a result at the one-day Scheldeprijs race, having only picked up one victory so far in 2019 at La Tropicale Amissa Bongo held in Gabon as part of the UCI Africa Tour.
“I just don’t feel ready to fight for the right positions any more,” Greipel said, “Physically I am fine. When I sprint in training, I still have the same capabilities as my best times.”
Despite his confessed lack of form, it’s great to see the German having fun at the biggest race of the year.